When the lights go on in bedrooms across Michigan on early school day mornings, young children are roused from their beds by their parents. During that day, these parents will be called upon to decide what foods their children will eat and what foods they will avoid. These parents will decide with whom their children will play, how much television they will watch, and how much homework they will do. These parents will decide which physicians will treat their childrens injuries, which dentists will check their teeth, and which baby-sitters will care for them in the parents absence. As their children grow, these parents will help them decide which clubs and organizations to join and which courses of study to pursue. As the young people approach high school graduation, these parents will offer counsel regarding future educational and vocational pursuits.
Yet in spite of the fact that parents are entrusted to make vital decisions in nearly every area of their childrens lives, most Michigan parents are unable to make true choices about one of the most important aspects of their childrens development. For 180 days of the year, most children are sent to a government-mandated, government-assigned educational institution.1
But slowly, things are beginning to change. Historians who look back on the 1990s may well view this decade as one of true educational reforma turning point when Americans not only talked about reform but individually and collectively made choices about their schools and the quality of American education.